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Brooks gives so much; new hotel tells tale; Prince rules

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published April 28, 2004

Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks is leaving.

For Africa, that is.

Brooks, who shepherded a group of at-risk students through a 12-day tour of South Africa and Swaziland in 2000, will return with another group in 2005. It's a huge undertaking for Brooks and his charitable organization, but Brooks says it's worth it.

"It's a whole new group of kids, so everything will be fresh for them," Brooks said. "Hopefully, we'll make more contacts to make the trip better. The same lessons are out there to be learned, so maybe we can make the message bigger."

The decision to return is just the latest in a series of activities keeping Brooks as active off the field as he is on the field. Earlier this month, he received the prestigious 38th annual Byron "Whizzer" White Award for his dedication to team and community.

Dedication? Instead of taking his Brooks Bunch kids on a trip this year, he will craft an SAT/ACT tutoring program to move them closer to college.

Brooks even found time to help the Tampa Bay Titans and University of South Florida rugby teams. Last week, the two teams recognized his efforts in a special ceremony at USF.

People in Tampa play rugby?

More importantly, Brooks is a Florida State University trustee who frequently finds himself voting on policies for students and faculty of his alma mater. Brooks has bachelor's and master's degrees in business communications from FSU.

"At certain points of the year, like now when the Legislature is in session, we have to know what's going on," Brooks explained. "When they break session, we have to be prepared to deal with the issues.

"Coming up on my first year, I think I've been a very positive influence, and I'm not stopping there. I've got a big voice when it comes to education and I want it to be heard."

Even when Brooks has fun, he's helping someone. On Monday, the fourth annual Derrick Brooks Celebrity Golf Classic will be held at Old Memorial. Brooks' community standing will attract a number of nationally known players and celebrities, and the presence of Publix Charities as a sponsor indicates the tournament's importance.

"I like to say it's bigger than a golf tournament," Brooks said. "The people coming here are returning from past years because they're supporting our vision, and they can see the work we're doing in the community."

* * *

IT'S NOT THE FIRST story to center on a hotel, but International Plaza's new Renaissance Hotel will be one of the first to center on a story.

The $45-million Renaissance is using a fictional turn-of-the-century romance to explain the Mediterranean style of the hotel, which is set to open Aug. 2. Hotel officials told the story at a media event Tuesday, explaining that Sergio, a paper mill owner from Marbella, met Gabriella, heir to a Tampa cigar factory, on the Spanish Riviera.

After an extensive honeymoon on the Mediterranean coast, the couple returned and built their dream home - the hotel.

Employees will wear name tags that display their favorite romantic tale. I would have either Like Water For Chocolate or Groundhog Day on my tag.

I understand why the Renaissance wants to distinguish itself and be known as more than that hotel next to the mall, but it remains to be seen whether the whimsical tale is a marketing coup or just a syrupy attempt at manufactured character.

This much I know: This is no Motel 6, and the hotel's goal of a four-star rating seems attainable. If people fall in love with the hotel's story, every inn from the old Travelodge on Kennedy to the Red Roof Inn on Busch will have its own novella.

* * *

PEOPLE WERE STILL BUZZING Tuesday about Prince's sold out Monday night appearance at the St. Pete Times Forum. Not only did he enthrall with medleys, but he had a number of fans join him on stage.

Prince's popularity isn't surprising when you consider he can command the attention of audiences on five different television stations. Tonight, clips from a recent New York City performance will air on on MTV, MTV2, VH1, VH1 Classic and BET at 9 p.m.

That's all I'm saying.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 28, 2004, 01:05:41]


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